Legendary China PR forward Sun Wen knows a thing or two about personal and team success at the FIFA Women’s World Cup™. The joint FIFA Women’s Player of the Century - the other being Michelle Akers - competed in four tournaments, most memorably scoring seven goals in 1999 en route to being named adidas Golden Ball winner. China peaked with a runners-up finish behind the hosts at USA 1999, following a silver medal at the 1996 Women’s Olympic Football Tournament in Atlanta.
Having been a central figure during China’s golden period, Sun is now involved in developing the next generation of talent for the Steel Roses. In the midst of preparing her Shanghai side for the coming season, Sun spoke with FIFA.com where she shared her views on moving into coaching, her hopes for the game in China and Asia, plus the forthcoming FIFA Women's World Cup in Germany.
FIFA.com: How does it feel taking a coaching role for the first time as you have recently done with Shanghai?
Sun Wen: After retiring from playing football in 2006 I spent years in football marketing, during both the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup and the Beijing Olympic Games the following year. But my major interest still lies in the game itself so it was natural that I jumped at my first coaching job in December when Shanghai provided me with the opportunity and I am very happy to return to the pitch.
As one of the all-time greats on the field in the women's game, what goal have you set as a coach?
As a player I was always absorbed with the beauty of the game and I enjoyed very much the happiness it brought me. Now, despite the different role, my attitude remains unchanged. I am preparing my team for this year's Chinese Women's League which runs from April to September. With sixteen teams involved, the title race will be fierce but we will of course strive to win.
What can you bring from your playing experience into a coaching role?
To be honest I have been preparing for the managerial job all these years and as a former player I can communicate with my players well. I am quick to discover where the problem starts so it is easy for me to find a solution.
What are your expectations for June’s FIFA Women's World Cup?
Without a doubt it is going to be a great World Cup. The traditional powerhouses like USA, Germany and Brazil will continue to dominate the international stage but teams including England and Sweden, and even Asian sides like Korea DPR and Australia are capable of mounting a serious challenge.
How disappointing is it to have a first FIFA Women's World Cup without China's participation?
I am disappointed but not surprised, because over recent years we have been inconsistent in terms of the team's performance and the game's development. Having said that, I am optimistic about our future with a host of young hopefuls coming through the ranks. Now the team are focusing on preparations for London 2012 and I believe things are going in the right direction.
Both Germany and USA will be seeking their third world title. Which of these two are your favourites?
They are two of the best developed countries in women's football. USA boasts a great footballing population while Germany are renowned for their professional coaching. As hosts they will receive unprecedented home support but USA, despite the fact they are going through transition with a blend of young and old players, are undoubtedly one of the major title contenders.
What are the prospects for Asia's participants?
Japan have received what should be a kind draw alongside New Zealand, Mexico and England and given their recent progress, a place in the last eight should be within their grasp. Once again North Korea meet USA and Sweden but they are very capable of progressing as they did four years ago. Australia are also in a hard group as both Brazil and Norway are tough, while Equatorial Guinea are a rising African power.
Do you think Marta, who has just won her fifth FIFA Women's Player of the Year crown, will remain unrivalled in terms of individual performance at Germany 2011?
Before Marta it was usually a host of world stars that fought out team and individual honours but that has all changed since Marta's emergence. Blessed with pace, power and physical energy, she has improved her skills to such a level that she really stands out above her peers. She will definitely continue to shine barring injuries but we can also expect to see some new young stars breakthrough and shine at this level.